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Green Self-Storage Protect More Than the Environment

Eco-friendly construction for self-storage facilities protects the environment, employee health and the budget too.

There’s no escaping the greening of America. With environmental awareness on the rise, green technology, green buildings and green products have entered the thoughts and lexicons of professionals worldwide.

Major car manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, Lexus, Nissan and Ford constantly strive to maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly growing green auto market. Even last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was granted—not to someone negotiating a treaty between warring nations—but to people working to make peace between industry and the environment.

What Does ‘Green’ Mean?

According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, green buildings “are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment.”

Being green is more than just a practice; it’s a process, culture and a belief system. According to respected entrepreneurial publication Startup Nation, “‘Green,’ ‘environmental’ and ‘sustainable’ are more than just labels. They’re practices that include every aspect of business—invention, definition, construction, production and the ultimate disposal of the product.” With more entrepreneurs, CEOs and business owners seeing green, the culture of green business is more prevalent in professional industries than ever before.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, plans to spend $500 million in coming years to make operations more green, according to CEO Lee Scott. General Electric’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, also believes in green changes. “The opportunity to provide environmental solutions is going to be one of the big four or five themes of our generation of business leadership,” Immelt states.

Being green has become one of the most highly sought-after competitive advantages in business, making it clear why so many businesses are coming down with a case of “green fever.”

True Green

While the big-wigs in the green revolution concern themselves with the political benefits of going green, many medium to small companies must focus on another shade of green: cash. Despite common misconceptions, going green presents opportunities for businesses to cut costs, work more efficiently and ultimately improve bottom lines. For example, energy costs, a large factor in any business’s budget, can be reduced through environmentally beneficial, low-energy consumption methods. According to a 2004 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, energy costs associated with a company’s physical plant represent nearly 40 percent of all energy use and 68 percent of total electricity consumption.

Green buildings can reduce these costs significantly. According to a study by Gregory H. Kats, director of financing for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), green buildings reduce energy consumption by 25 to 30 percent on average. Businesses in the United States spend $108 billion annually on energy for their facilities, according to the DOE. A 30 percent cut in this cost would represent $32 billion annually in savings for businesses across the country.

The Work Environment

But going green is about more than just reducing energy costs; it is also about maintaining a healthy workforce. Work environment-related illnesses can be significantly improved by a number of commonly used green-building methods, including increased ventilation, reduced air recirculation, improved filtration, ultraviolet disinfection of air, reduced office sharing and occupant density.

According to a 2000 study by William J. Fisk of the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory, such improvements significantly lower the occurrence of four of the most common respiratory illnesses. These account for 176 million days of lost work at a cost of $70 billion a year due to the cost of treatment. Healthy building design can also create a 9 to 20 percent reduction in cases of the common cold, translating into 16 to 37 million fewer cases annually. This annual reduction could save U.S. businesses as much as $14 billion a year.

Cost Comparisons

To measure the value of green buildings, we must consider the cost compared to traditional building practices. Many people think it’s more expensive than conventional building methods. While building green may come at a higher initial cost than traditional building methods, green investments are easily regained over time.

In The Economics of Green Building, author David Gottfried estimates the initial construction of green buildings typically accounts for only 2 percent of the total cost, with operations and maintenance accounting for 6 percent. Payroll costs, however, represent 92 percent, showing a company’s greatest investment is in its workforce. When you consider the yearly savings that result from reducing lost work time and improving worker health that result from green businesses, the benefits of green building becomes even more obvious.

Many businesses have the misconception that catering to environmental needs comes at the expense of style, convenience and state-of-the-art design, when in actuality modern developments have made green building a competitive, high-tech construction and renovation option for businesses. In the near future, with more key corporations reaping the benefits of going green, companies that resist the green movement will face staunch criticism and, ultimately, risk of failure.

Green building, through demonstrated return on investment, long-term energy savings and improved worker health and productivity, has undeniably become a benchmark in industrial and commercial building and promises to be an even greater necessity in the years to come.

Scott H. Lawson is a certified industrial hygienist and the president of The Scott Lawson Cos. based in Concord, N.H. He can be reached at 603.228.3610; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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